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SMEs Human resource attraction, retention and performance enhancement network
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2019 PROJECT  ONGOING 

The SHARPEN project is a network of five universities from five EU countries that are aligned around collaboration with one main objective: Human Resources Attraction, Retention and Performance Enhancement in Small and Midsized Enterprises (SMEs).All five universities are situated in regions where the strongest economic power and majority of work opportunities are held by SMEs. From previous surveys it has been found that the majority of graduates who are leaving regional universities tend to migrate out of the regions to find attractive jobs closer to capital cities and in large companies. The reason is on both sides: students are not prepared and educated practically to be able to enter SME jobs and fulfill the specific needs of SMEs and SMEs are not sufficiently attractive and therefore in general cannot recruit and retain graduates. Furthermore, the regions already face or will face in the near future challenges with successfully integrating immigrants into local jobs.Therefore the SHARPEN project will focus on training HR teachers in the universities to prepare students to start their careers in SMEs and to be ready to meet the needs of SMEs. Furthermore, the project will prepare and educate SMEs about how to create appropriate conditions and to be attractive employers for young graduates, but also for people with other specific needs such as disabled people, elderly people or immigrants. HRM learning modules in English will be useful tools to deliver these objectives to students who will also visit SMEs and work in real practice. Various seminars, lectures and conferences will be prepared to disseminate findings for SMEs. International training and workshops for teachers will be held to share knowledge and best practices mainly on new HR methods and inclusion issues from regions where they already have this experience (Germany and the UK) to the other partners (CZ, FIN, LI) which will enrich current knowledge amongst the participating institutions.Intended objectives: graduates finding jobs more easily in the region where they studied the university, mainly in SMEs, that are the largest group of employers in these regions; HR teachers who are better equipped with knowledge and expertise based not only on HR theory but more on daily practice and needs of companies, particularly SMEs; programmes that combine the needs of SMEs with the expectations and competences of graduates, foreigners, elderly people. Understanding that regional employers have to be flexible and adaptable to fill open job positions successfully with local unemployed people.This project will include up to 15 HRM specialists and teachers working on the HR project courses. Five specialists will be dedicated to direct and continuous communications with SMEs in their respective regions, directly involving 75 students who are active in international mobility. There will further be approximately 500 students attending HRM courses during the project and approx. 50 SMEs in the regions who will collaborate with preparing case studies, and developing a knowledge-base and exemplary practices for the content of the handbook chapters. The eHandbook will be than delivered and available to hundreds of SMEs to guide them with effective HR policies and processes.The activities will include workshops facilitated by HR teachers, the creation of HR modules for students, research on current HRM trends in SMEs, seminars, lectures, conferences, social-media communications and other dissemination activities. Key knowledge production methods used will include questionnaire-based research conducted amongst SMEs, together with active collaboration with students and SMEs which will inform the research study, case writing and handbook chapters.Summary of intended project results and impact: First, the development and modernisation of the curricula on HRM and business administration courses related to SMEs within the collaborating universities will be key success factors. More relevant, up-to-date and highly practical HR course content, based on real needs and case studies conducted in SMEs will lead to better educated students whose expectations and competences will be matched more closely with the needs of the SMEs that are seeking new employees. Second, SMEs participating in the project and benefiting from its outputs will better understand how to facilitate their working conditions and define their employer brand to become more attractive employers that will more easily recruit and retain young workers and other job seekers with specific needs to boost the sustainability of local economies.

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